Disney has signed a letter in support of a federal law to protect same-sex marriages after taking a drubbing this year over its response to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The Mouse House signed an open letter spearheaded by the Human Rights Campaign, urging the Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which has already passed the House.

The bill seeks to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996, which barred the federal government from acknowledging same-gender couples married under state law and didn’t require states to legally respect same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in US v. Windsor struck down DOMA and allowed for LGBTQ marriage. But recent statements made by Justice Clarence Thomas in his opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade suggested that the court might be looking to overturn rulings like Windsor.

Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World.
Disney signed a letter in support of codifying LGBTQ marriage into federal law.
LightRocket via Getty Images

Disney was one of 173 corporations that signed the letter, including Apple, Google, Sony, Amazon, NBCUniversal’s Comcast and Goldman Sachs.

“Americans from all walks of life, across demographics, geographies, and party lines agree that loving, committed couples have the right to be respected and protected under the law,” the letter said. “As many of us highlighted in our support for Marriage Equality in 2015, a patchwork of inconsistent and discriminatory state marriage laws goes against our company values and makes it harder for us to do business and to recruit and retain top talent.”

The move comes as the Mouse House is embroiled in a war with Gov. Ron DeSantis over its opposition to Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, which bans teaching children about topics including gender identity and sexual orientation before fourth grade.

bob chapek
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been at the center of a culture war at Disney since March.
Chris Jackson

Initially, Disney CEO Bob Chapek did not come out against the legislation, which angered LGBTQ employees and allies inside the Mouse House, causing massive backlash and an employee walkout. The exec backpedaled, denouncing the legislation and offering a $5 million donation to the HRC in March.

As exclusively reported by The Post, the HRC refused the money partly because Disney didn’t secure acceptance from the group before publicly announcing it and putting out a press release. The gesture landed with a thud when HRC said publicly it would refuse the donation until Disney took “meaningful action” to combat the legislation.

The embattled Chapek then announced he would suspend Disney’s political donations in Florida, which spurred DeSantis to retaliate.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Parental Rights in Education bill at Classical Preparatory school
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law in March.

In April, DeSantis signed into law a measure that dissolves Reedy Creek Improvement District, which operates as an autonomous entity on land straddling Orange and Osceola counties that has the power to levy taxes, build infrastructure, grant licenses and institute its own zoning laws.

The new law dissolving the district doesn’t take effect until June 2023.

But the turmoil at Disney extends beyond its beef with DeSantis. The company is at a cultural crossroads in some ways, walking a tightrope to appeal to its broad swath of fans that include conservative families and young, liberal customers and employees.

Some critics have accused the firm of becoming too “woke” in order to appear more inclusive and politically correct, angering Disney diehards.

For instance, Disney recently ditched the term “fairy godmothers” for more inclusive, gender-neutral titles at dress-up boutiques inside its theme parks.

 In this Jan. 9, 2019, photo, guests watch a show near a statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Some critics accuse Disney of being too “woke” in order to appear more inclusive.

Last summer, Disney scrubbed the use of “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” from its theme parks, and changed its once-strict dress code policy. Theme park employees now can show up to work with visible tattoos in whatever gender costume they wish.

It has also changed some of its rides that may have appeared insensitive to customers.

For example, the company removed a shrunken head dealer character named “Trader Sam” from Jungle Cruise and got rid of the “Take a wench for a bride” scene from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. The scene depicted crying women tied together with ropes, for instance.

Even so, the HRC’s open letter supporting the Respect for Marriage Act marks one of the first known public stances Disney has taken in support of LGBTQ rights since its March controversy.

A rep for Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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Tyler Cowan